Safer highway driving
Here are 10 Tips for Safer Highway Driving
- Pack loose objects in the boot. In station wagons, 4WDs and SUVs, use a cargo net or think about installing a cargo barrier, or at least pack everything securely forward with heaqvy objects against the rear seat backs. Remember that too many heavy items on roof racks increases rollover risk, especially on 4WDs.
- Entertain the kids – not too hard to manage in the modern electronic age – and medicate them against motion sickness if they are susceptible. Entertained kids equals less stress behind the driver's seat.
- Maintain alertness by setting off well rested and by not driving at times when you’d normally be asleep. Take regular breaks, and protect your licence by enabling the cruise control (if you have it) to ensure your speed doesn't creep up beyond the limit.
- Avoid animal impact by not driving at dawn and dusk – prime time for cleaning up animals. Brake hard, early if an animal impact seems likely. Be mindful that high-speed swerving can induce loss of control - with potential consequences worse than hitting the animal. Learn about emergency braking here.
- Put your headlights (low beam) on in the daytime, and maintain a safe following distance from the car in front. When overtaking, make sure you remember to check the rear vision mirrors before pulling out - to ensure nobody is overtaking you. In fact, scan rear vision mirrors regularly to maintain awareness of approaching traffic.
- Stay well hydrated – with water, not soft drink (which tends to dehydrate you). Being well hydrated maintains mental alertness. Also, minimise distractions by planning ahead and being prepared (for example with your destination input into your sat-nav, your music ready to play, and other items you might want along the way readily at hand. If you need to sort out navigation, entertainment, communications, etc., stop somewhere safe if the alternative is driving while your eyes are off the road and your mind isn't engaged in actively driving the vehicle.
- Have your vehicle serviced before a big trip to prevent foreseeable problems. Check vital fluids (engine oil, radiator coolant, etc., as well as windscreen washer fluid) before setting off - as well as tyre pressures. Check all lights are functioning as well.
- Put both hands on the wheel and look as far down the road at all times – vision equals distance equals reaction time equals survival space. If you run off the edge of a road onto the soft unsealed shoulder, slow first then gently steer back onto the road. Give any cars stopped at the roadside a wide berth as you pass them.
- Have a breakdown plan, inclusive of current roadside assistance: move to a safe location (on foot if the vehicle is immobile), pack sufficient drinking water plus hats and sunscreen, and have an emergency communications plan. Ensure someone you trust knows where you are headed, when. And have a re-fuelling plan if travelling long distances in remote territory.
- The core business of driving is the management of risk – not the compliance with rules. So scan intersections, lift off the gas early for potential hazards, beware blind crests and curves (to cut potential stopping distance) and ask yourself plenty of ‘what if’ questions.